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Beauty queen arrested for faking cancer

Lisa Fogarty


Lisa Fogarty

Lisa Fogarty has written numerous articles for USA Today, The Stir, Opposing Views and other publications. She has covered everything from red carpet events to the discovery of toxic PCBs on school windows. She lives on Long Island, N.Y....

Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International has been stripped of her crown for pretending to be sick

There are things you do to win and get ahead — but faking cancer is as low as one can go. A beauty queen from Pennsylvania was arrested and stripped of her title for reportedly using the C-word to get ahead.

Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates is a 23-year-old professional beauty who was crowned Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International. I guess it isn't enough to be pretty, intelligent and talented these days because authorities say Weaver-Gates pretended to have leukemia and even held events to raise money for the disease ‚ when, in fact, she was perfectly healthy.

The story is incredibly complicated and bizarre. For starters, police say she had been faking cancer since 2013 and even shaved her head and asked relatives to drive her to Johns Hopkins for treatment. But authorities say doctors never treated Weaver-Gates for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and that she lied about being unwell.

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The State College student was reportedly arraigned Tuesday on charges of theft by deception and receiving stolen property. In April 2014, a bingo benefit was held in Weaver-Gates' honor and caring individuals donated $14,000 to help the young woman. Someone became suspicious and tipped police off to the possibility that the whole thing was a scam and, lo and behold, it was.

The web of lies was so intricate that Weaver-Gates' own sister reportedly believed she had leukemia. No word yet on whether other family members were in on the ruse, but from what it sounds like right now, the pageant winner had a lot of people fooled.

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On its website, Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International acknowledged Weaver-Gates' deceitful act and revealed that they, too, were duped into believing their winner was suffering from a disease:

"We at Butler’s Beauties are saddened to hear of the news of Miss Brandy Weaver-Gates. We were also led to believe that she was dealing with this horrible disease and stood by her as she struggled being a beauty queen and a cancer patient. We at Butler’s Beauties believe that with a crown and sash you can accomplish many great things as a role model, spokesmodel and community leader as a beauty pageant queen. When you deceive the public and take people’s money that is under the pretense of fraud, we will not tolerate those actions. Our hearts go out to those affected by cancer and to those who were taken advantage of by Miss Weaver-Gates. Effectively immediately, Ms. Weaver-Gates is no longer a representative of the Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International organization and will be required to return her crown and sash upon her release from being detained."

Weaver-Gates' preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 and she is being held on $150,000 bail.

I can't imagine what drove this young woman to seek attention in a way that would cause others so much pain and distress. Did she begin to believe her own lie? As curious as I am to hear Weaver-Gates' side of the story, I don't feel it ultimately matters. She deceived hundreds of people and she hurt and embarrassed her family. Stripping her crown and forcing her to face the music in court is the only fair consequence to her actions.

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